What do pistachios, peanuts, blueberries, and grapes have in common? In addition to providing a tasty snack, they are all sources of Resveratrol – a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants that offers a number of health benefits to the brain!
Resveratrol is a type of phytoalexin – a substance produced by plant tissues that promotes disease resistance. Medical researchers are still exploring the mechanisms by which Resveratrol works but it has clearly proven its impact on reducing inflammation in the central nervous system (inflammation of this nature is a major contributor to chronic pain, depression, and neurodegenerative diseases).
A well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts is a wonderful way to obtain Resveratrol. Other food sources include mulberries, raspberries, red wine, pomegranates, dark chocolate, and soy beans.
In Vitro vs In Vivo
Successful in vivo studies (involving animals or humans) are more limited but also show promise. One reason for their limited success is that Resveratrol has low bioavailability. Merriam-Webster defines bioavailability as “the degree and rate at which a substance is absorbed into a living system or is made available at the site of physiological activity.” In other words, before our bodies are able to reap its benefits, Resveratrol is rapidly absorbed and eliminated. Researchers continue to look for ways to enhance its bioavailability through dosage concentrations and combinations with other compounds. For example, a 2011 study concluded that, just as piperine can improve the bioavailability of curcumin, it also “significantly improves the in vivo bioavailability of resveratrol .“
Possible Clinical Applications of Resveratrol
- Resveratrol has demonstrated neuroprotective qualities post-stroke, post-Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and/or post-spinal cord injury. A 2015 review published in Neurochemistry International, which looked at both in vivo and in vitro studies, confirmed that Resveratrol “can induce a neuroprotective state when administered acutely or prior to experimental injury to the CNS.”
- Resveratrol can potentially lower a person’s risk of opioid dependency. A 2015 study concluded that “Resveratrol restores the antinociceptive effect of morphine by reversing morphine infusion-induced spinal cord neuroinflammation.” In other words, this study suggests that it’s possible that Resveratrol, when taken with morphine, can prevent the development of hyperalgesia (increased sensitization to pain) – a condition that often leads to opioid dependency. Furthermore, Resveratrol acts without compromising the morphine’s effectiveness.
- Resveratrol can improve age-related mood and memory function. Resveratrol’s anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties seem to protect cells in the hippocampal region of the brain from damage. This region of the brain converts short-term memory to long-term memory, and is part of the limbic system, which regulates emotion.
A study published in Scientific Reports showed that middle aged, Resveratrol-treated rats had “improved learning, memory and mood function” in older age than their “vehicle” (a substance usually without therapeutic action) or control-treated counterparts.
- Resveratrol reduces amyloid plaque formation. Amyloid plaques present as a sticky buildup that accumulates outside nerve cells or neurons, and they have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers in a 2009 study published in Neurochemistry International, were able to show that Resveratrol significantly inhibited plaque formation in certain areas of the brain by as much as 90%!
Supplementing with Resveratrol
Resveratrol supplements are available in pure form or combined with other compounds. Dosages are typically somewhere between 5mgs and 5gms, depending on the individual’s medical condition.
* If you are considering taking a supplement, make sure to talk with your physician about possible interactions with other medicines.
In sum, Resveratrol is a powerful anti-oxidant with a demonstrated potential to nurture and even heal the brain. With many delightful sources available in food, supplementing with Resveratrol can ensure that our bodies get even more of this wonderful gift from nature!
Bioavailability (n.d.) Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from //www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bioavailability.